Today is the final post in my series with Melanie. Melanie lived with Lyndie and I in 2006 after finding out she was pregnant and choosing to place her baby for adoption. Today we are looking back at the day Melanie officially signed away her rights and placed her daughter in the arms of her new parents, the Tways.
Even though I knew that this was the decision for me, the day I signed off my rights to her was the hardest day of my life. I wondered if I was a bad mother for not being able to take care of her. Would she resent me? Would she be able to understand one day why I made this choice? All the questions aside, and with an amazing support system beside me, I signed the papers and left the hospital. That day I not only left behind that beautiful baby and her new parents, but in a sense, I was leaving behind who I was at that time in my life. In the weeks that followed the birth I had no regrets about my choice. I had amazing people in my life that loved me and supported me and my decision. I would not have been able to stay as strong as I did or come out of that whole experience as positively as I did had I not had that group of people surrounding me.
The Monday following Meleah’s Friday morning birth was The Big Day, the day Melanie would meet with the social worker and sign the papers to permanently relinquish rights as Meleah’s mother. Several people had to be present, and Lyndie and I were chosen to sign as witnesses, along with Lyndie’s sister Kari and another family member. The experience was both honoring and surreal.
Melanie came home from the hospital Sunday night and we drove back together the next morning when it was time to meet the social worker. We took Meleah out of the nursery and the nurses showed us to a small room at the end of the maternity hall. Mel held her daughter and we all talked and joked somewhat anxiously, staving off the inevitable gravity of the hour. There was the sadness of knowing our time with Meleah was almost done, and there was joy in knowing she was going to be okay, she would have parents who would love and care for her, and we would see her again.
Melanie was strong, but I cannot imagine what she was going through. After a while we decided to pray together while we had time. Melanie sat down in a chair in the corner with Meleah on her lap, and we all huddled around her and held hands, each of us praying in turn. It amazed me Melanie didn’t cry through this; I think she had steeled herself, knowing it was necessary until she had gone all the way through with it. We took Meleah back to the nursery in preparation for the social worker’s arrival.
The social worker was not much older that Lyndie and I, buoyant and caring but professional. After brief introductions she sat on the bed and began the interview. It was necessary by law for Melanie to answer a variety of questions to make the relinquishment official. If you didn’t know better you would think she was trying to talk Melanie out of it, but it was her responsibility to make sure any birthmother understood the magnitude of this decision. She asked her why she was placing Meleah for adoption; if she understood there were programs available to assist her if she chose to keep the baby; if anyone had coerced her to place the child for adoption; if she had been offered any compensation for doing so. I’ll never forget the way she started the interview. She looked Melanie in the eyes and said, “What does the word permanent mean to you?”
Melanie held up well to all this. She answered everything with calm resolve. Finally the social worker had Melanie sign, which was a climactic moment for everyone present. Then we all signed as witnesses. The social worker left the room after this to give us some time alone.
As soon as the social worker left the room, Melanie finally let herself break down. It wasn’t dramatic; it was profoundly real. It hit me at that moment more than at any other the enormity of what a birthmother is doing in giving up her child. For three days she had been this child’s mother without birth attached to the front of the word. Now it always would be, an unnatural but necessary distinction. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, and she lowered her head and sobbed quietly. All of us cried, though we tried to stay as strong as we could for her. Finally Cheryl, the oldest witness present, sat down in front of Melanie, took her face in her hands and said what we were all feeling – I am so very proud of you. Mel smiled, and wiped her tears. She put on a good face, but I can’t imagine what she was feeling.
After a little while Matt and Annette were shown in with Meleah. This wasn’t required, but they had worked it out with Melanie in advance. The three of them wanted to do their own handing-off ceremony of sorts, which I think was a beautiful idea. Melanie held the baby while one of us prayed – it might have been me, though I don’t remember – and then she handed Meleah to her new mom. Goodbyes and hugs were given all around. And two parents left the hospital with their new baby girl.
The five of us drove to a restaurant in town and ate lunch. We talked about everything but adoption, anything but Meleah. Time would come for reflection, but it was not then. Melanie left with Cheryl and Kari, and Lyndie and I went home. This was a sort of hand-off as well, a changing of the guard. Lyndie and I had been Melanie’s biggest support until Meleah’s birth, Kari and Cheryl would become her biggest support from now on. A few weeks later Melanie moved in with Cheryl and her husband, where she lived for almost two years. We still hung out with her on occasion until she moved away, but not nearly so often as before, and without the same level of enthusiasm. This wasn’t her fault, nor was it ours. I think Melanie needed to pull away from us, since for her we represented her pregnancy and the hardest decision of her life. Still, it saddens my heart that we are not as close to her now as we were able to be for nine months in 2006.
Melanie will be important to us for the rest of our lives, whether or not those lives are always in closest fellowship. She made us see the other side of adoption, made us ache and hope for the birthmother, helped us see the wary hope with which that side looks at us as birthparents. To be part of something like that, so see the papers signed and the quiet collapse in the minutes that follow is something I wish every adoptive parent could experience. It changes us. I will forever count it as a privilege that I got to witness that sacrifice so closely.
Also, we just loved her. She was our friend. I hope she always will be.
Looking back, 5 years later I still have no regrets. I have a great relationship with Meleah and her family. At one point during the pregnancy I thought that maybe a more closed adoption would be better for me, but having an open adoption has been so rewarding. I have been reassured over and over again that my decision was the right one and I know that Meleah is in the best environment she could possibly be in. That whole year of my life, and all that transpired during it, made me realize that one day I did want to have children of my own, when I was ready. I now am happily married with 2 wonderful children. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Meleah and hope that she will grow to understand the choice I made. I also hope that one day my children can understand my choice to place their half-sister up for adoption. It is my hope that they will all grow to know each other well, and have great lasting relationships with one another. Adoption is not the right choice for everyone, but it definitely was for me.
Thank you so much for sharing all of this with me and my readers, Melanie, and for what you shared with Lyndie and I five years ago. It meant more than you know. Peace and love to you, friend.